Sunil Chhetri masterclass ensures Bengaluru qualify for final after convincing win over FC Pune City

Bengaluru: After the completion of the second-leg semi-final between Bengaluru FC and FC Pune City, there was one request that was gaining traction on social media — to install a statue of Sunil Chhetri at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Considering the kind of performance Chhetri put in, it was not an audacious plea from Bengaluru FC fans.
It was a masterclass from the captain, leader and legend Chhetri — scoring a sublime hat-trick — that saw Bengaluru trounce FC Pune City 3-1 to enter the final of the Indian Super League (ISL) in their debut season.
After a boring goalless draw in the first-leg, much was riding on the second-leg as both teams were looking to book a place in the final for the first time.
Bengaluru FC’s Sunil Chhetri scores his third goal against FC Pune City. ISL/SPORTZPICSBengaluru FC’s Sunil Chhetri scores his third goal against FC Pune City. ISL/SPORTZPICS
Before the match started, Pune had a narrow advantage since they had ensured Bengaluru don’t score any away goals at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi. But as the second-leg progressed, it became apparent which team is better in terms of quality and who deserve to make the cut for the final.
As expected, Bengaluru started the match positively. Buoyed by playing at their own backyard and in front of a passionate crowd, Albert Roca’s team dominated the proceedings. Chhetri came close to opening the scoring in the third minute from an Udanta Singh cross. The skipper, however, failed to find the back of the net with a weak shot from inide the penalty box.
Seconds later, FC Pune City almost took the lead with the help of Diego Carlos. Bengaluru and India No 1 goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu proved to be the difference as his reflexes pushed the ball away from danger.
It was in the 15th minute that the game saw its first goal. Chhetri collected the ball outside the penalty box and played it to Udanta on the right. The winger sprinted ahead and crossed it to an unmarked Chhetri, who made no mistake in heading the ball into the net. Just for a moment, Pune’s defence went off and they were behind by a goal.
Bengaluru kept possession for most of the first half but Pune had a chance to pull things back. Emiliano Alfaro’s pass found Marcelinho whose cross into the box found nobody, resulting in a futile attempt. Just before the half-time, Chhetri, who was a continuous source of headache to Pune defenders, had another chance to double the lead. His header from a set-piece was inches away from the goal.